Summertime, and the bloggin' is slow - Musicals

Happy Labor Day, readers! With the end of this weekend comes the unofficial close of summer 2012 and the beginning of fall on Broadway. What better time to close out our theatrical expeditions of the past month? Check out the musicals we've seen recently below (notes on Ghost's closing night can be found here), and head over to a separate post to read about our play ventures.

Into The Woods at the Public's Delacorte Theatre has been the talk of the town this summer, for more reasons than one. When all is said and done, the production's run is closing tonight, with the likelihood of a transfer to Broadway all but gone, and you know what? I'm okay with that. I feel glad to have seen the production twice, once as the show was still settling and once as it neared its conclusion, and reassure myself that, in my opinion, this was an excellent production. Everything hinges, I suppose, on whether you bought the concept that director Timothy Sheader first employed in the show's London production two years ago - using the frame of the Narrator as a young boy, run away to the forest from an argument with his father, to start the story, and inserting modern references via the rest of the fairy tale characters' costumes and props. We felt that this device worked very effectively and added yet another level to the already-complex tale. It's an incredible feat when a production of a show makes you consider the material in a different light than you had before, and I definitely left the Delacorte both evenings I saw the show pondering various parallels and connections that had only just unearthed themselves to me. Take-aways from this production include a gorgeous three-tiered set that must have grown right in the middle of Central Park, Sarah Stiles as Little Red Ridinghood (in what we thought was an absolutely charming breakout performance), Jessie Mueller as a truly heartfelt and golden-voiced Cinderella, Donna Murphy's sexualized portrayal of the Witch (I particularly loved her during the first act), and an Amy Adams who clearly grew an infinite amount into her role as the Baker's Wife between the first time we saw the show and the second. Kristine Zbornik as Jack's mother also left an impression on me.

And if I'm the only person on the face of the earth who loved Denis O'Hare as the Baker, so be it. I will defend his characterization and his relationship with Ms. Adams as the Baker's Wife to the end. I've always found the Baker's storyline to have the most depth to it, and for some reason, all of Mr. O'Hare's choices - from his pronunciations, to the way he told his Wife that she was not to accompany him into the woods, to his gravely-yet-pleasant singing voice - reminded me of my grandfather.

Triassic Parq has since closed at the Soho Playhouse, but you should keep an eye out for its cast recording, to be released in September. The tongue-in-cheek musical, narrated by "Morgan Freeman" (hilariously "portrayed" by Lee Seymour - check out his picture to see why so many quotation marks are necessary), tells the story of a tribe? pack? gaggle? of dinosaurs, on the brink of uncovering why some of them have numbers tattooed on their backs. (Hint: a scientific laboratory plays a part in the mystery.) The show had me laughing out loud more than once, and also had a surprising amount of heart buried underneath the sometimes crude comedy. Highlights included Alex Wyse as the Velociraptor of Innocence, Wade McCollum as the Velociraptor of Faith and the "Mama Dino," and Brandon Espinoza as the Mime-a-saurus. (The character is what it sounds like.)

- Most likely for the first and only time in our lives, Hillary and I saw Mamma Mia! at the ginormous Winter Garden Theatre. For the sake of brevity, the experience was exactly what we had imagined, complete with the Abba remix dance party at the end of the night. The new Broadway cast brought a great energy to the show, which now feels somewhat dated, especially Zak Resnick and Christy Altomare, who we've seen previously in other projects. Also, Aaron Lazar. In a neon yellow bedazzled disco bodysuit.

- The new rendition of Forbidden Broadway, subtitled Alive and Kicking!, is certainly alive and kicking at the 47th Street Theatre. What a fun, fun night. Although I hear that the show, which doesn't open until September 6, has been undergoing constant changes, it opened on the night I attended with "Patti LuPone" yelling, "Stop taking pictures!! Right now!! Who do you think you are?!" at a "bootlegger" coming down the center aisle, which segway-ed into a "Broadway Baby"-inspired version of "Bootleg Baby." (Speaking of which, if you've never seen LuPWNed! The Patti LuPone Audience Freakout Remix," NOW'S THE TIME.) Two major highlights for me were Marcus Stevens playing Matthew Broderick TO A T in a skewering of Nice Work If You Can Get It - "Nice song if I could sing it, but if I sing it, you'll cry" - and a skit about Once, featuring "Anne L. Nathan" and accordion, "Paul Whitty" and beard, an ultra-wide-eyed "Cristin Milioti," and a pretentiously melancholy "Steve Kazee."

- Seeing Will Chase as Matthew Broderick's vacation replacement in Nice Work If You Can Get It didn't change what I think of the show as a whole, but it was an absolute joy to hear him sing through the beautiful Gershwin score after being exposed to that side of his voice in Pipe Dream earlier this year. He and Kelli O'Hara were born to sing together, it seems. (So, Theatre Gods, let's make this happen again soon, please.) I think Mr. Broderick brought a lot of natural, Broderick-y comedy to the role of Jimmy Winter, where Mr. Chase played a more believable romantic lead. So my review ends at the conclusion that the show led by Mr. Chase felt like a completely different show than when it was led by Mr. Broderick. Both were enjoyable in different ways. Additionally, if the seasoned and terrific Michael McGrath ever decides to do a solo show, I would be there in a heartbeat.

- And finally, the concerts; or rather, just one concert - Frank and Friends, a monthly series held at Birdland and hosted by the man himself, Frank Wildhorn, as a showcase for his many, many works. Laura Osnes, Melissa Van Der Schyff, Stark Sands and Constantine Maroulis were on hand to sing some tunes and lend their classy presences to the evening, which felt appropriately Bonnie and Clyde-heavy. (Not that we were complaining.) We also got a preview of the upcoming Broadway-bound tour of Jekyll and Hyde when Mr. Maroulis closed the show with an impressive rendition of "This Is The Moment." Favorite performances included Ms. Osnes and Ms. Van Der Schyff singing "Candle In The Window" from The Civil War; Ms. Osnes and Mr. Maroulis doing a swing number, "Heat of the Night," from the upcoming Scott and Zelda; all four singers performing "Money To Burn," also from Scott and Zelda; and Ms. Osnes bowling the audience over with "When I Look At You" from The Scarlet Pimpernel.

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